Apoorva Mandavilli is a terrible science reporter working at the New York Times
A brief catalog of her errors
Recently, I read an article by Apoorva Mandavilli— the New York Times science reporter. I will come to that example at the end of this piece, but it just reminded me that she is incompetent as a science journalist. She has her own views on covid policy. She is pro mask, pro boosting kids, and pro school shutdown. She seems as if she favors partisan Democratic positions on COVID policy. Her own views color her journalism and lead to one-sided errors.
Here is a brief catalog of her errors (please add ones I missed in the comments)
#1. She was confident that lab leak was impossible, and the mere suggestion of it was racist.
I still don’t understand how wet-market escape is less pejorative than lab-leak, but clearly Apoorva was wrong, and lab leak was a vital issue to discuss. As time went on, more and more federal agencies (FBI DOE) favor lab leak as the source of the virus.
#2 Apoorva misstated the number of child hospitalizations by a factor of 14. She also had no idea what Europe was doing with kids vaccines. She generally is aloof to Europe.
She didn’t even get the date of the meeting right.
#3 Here she said 4000 died of MIS-C when the actual number was 68
This was part of this article meant to scare parents into giving an unnecessary, unproven booster to children who were not likely to benefit.
#4. Here Apoorva trivializes the harms of school closure, which is completely incorrect. The harms of the missed 18 months of in person education (in places like LA, SF, DC) are catastrophic.
#5. Here Apoorva falsely claims COVID kill 3% of those infected, when the IFR is a fractional decimal.
When she corrects this article, she still exaggerates it; claiming it is closer to 1%, it is far lower
#6 Here she goes beyond the bounds of a journalist and tells a practicing pediatric doctor, who runs vaccine trials that he should not compare COVID to flu in kids, when the two are comparable in children, and as Dr. Munro says: flu is a greater threat per case.
#7 In today’s column she once again showed how incurious she is; Here is the quote, a patient claims that she got sick from her health care provider b/c the provider mentioned sick kids
Here, Apoorva, accepts at face value that the patient *knows* who got her sick. But how do they *know*?
The patient is just projecting a narrative-- the health care worker gave it to me b/c she mentioned sick kids-- on to the world, and the article has no evidence that the worker is the reason why the patient got sick. It could have happened in the supermarket or mall. Yet, the reader is left with a false idea of certainty. Imagine being so in-curious that you don't ask yourself: wait, how do you know for sure who spread it to you?
Apoorva’s errors are one sided. I have never seen her downplay the risk of the virus; just overplay it. She does not provided balanced journalism on children and covid, a story that was largely reassuring, but repeatedly fear-mongers. She uses false MIS-C death statistics to scare parents to take a vaccine that still lacks any robust data is lowers MIS-C, which by the way, has fallen as the virus evolved.
Ultimately, the fact she is the science reporter for the Times just shows that the paper does not take science seriously. It should not be hard to find a journalist who is balanced, who goes where the facts take her, and does not invent facts to suit her preferred policy ideas. Journalists should listen to doctors who tell them flu is more dangerous to kids, per case, than COVID, and not tell them to shut up.